The second week of the NHL season has begun, featuring a Tuesday night match-up between two western conference teams, both of whom are undefeated. The Vancouver Canucks will host Vladimir Tarasenko and the St. Louis Blues tonight at Rogers Arena, but while both teams are looking to continue their short season-opening winning streaks – one will certainly walk away with a crack in momentum. The high calibre Russian sniper has been firing on all cylinders along with teammate Paul Stastny with no signs of slowing down. We’re only three games into the season, but this could possibly be the major test that’s needed for the Canucks to begin establishing their identity for the rest of the season.
Backup goaltender Jacob Markstrom (1-0-0) will once again make the start in relief of Ryan Miller, who was feeling tightness in the groin area. Markstrom made his first start of the season on Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes – where his performance was average in the first half of the game – allowing the Canucks to fall behind by three goals. To be fair, the team wasn’t playing so well in front of him. He found his game in the second half and started showing the confidence fans expect from him this season, therefore being rewarded with a three goal comeback. Markstrom will have to keep his composure to put together a solid bounce-back performance if the Canucks are to win this game, regardless of their defensive system.
Secondary scoring was a huge factor for the Canucks as all three regulation goals came from outside the top line, and will have to continue to grow as an offensive threat to gain an upper hand in the standings. Head Coach Willie Desjardins finally put together the line combinations that were expected coming out of camp, so there’s hope that he will keep them together for the foreseeable future.
Although I can somewhat understand the reason behind the move, I’m not a fan of Horvat on the fourth line. Baertschi makes him a more dynamic player and vice versa; When it’s known that a specific duo has chemistry and consistency with each other, they should play together. Marcus Granlund may have some previously unforeseen skill, but clearly he knows how to utilise it to maximum efficiency when playing with the likes of Brandon Sutter (27 yrs) and Jannik Hansen (30 yrs) respectively. There isn’t a better way for this team to discover unknown talent than playing a young forward trying to find his way, with two experienced players who are renowned for their ability to play quality 200-foot hockey.
Since this western conference tilt will test every facet of both the Canucks strengths and weaknesses, all those heavy bodies with character GM Jim Benning has added to the lineup in the last two years will come in handy.
Puck drops at 7pm PST.